Capital punishment in Puerto Rico

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Capital punishment is forbidden by law in Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. However, a number of people were executed in the territory before abolition.

From the 16th century until 1898, Puerto Rico was a part of the Spanish Empire. The number of people executed in Puerto Rico by the Spanish authorities is:

  • 16th Century: 289
  • 17th Century: 70
  • 18th Century: 44
  • 19th Century: 159[1]

In result of the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico became U.S. territory. 27 people were executed under American administration during the 20th century. The authorized method of execution was hanging, although in 1900, the American military authorities executed at least five convicted murderers using the garrotte method that was a legacy of Spanish rule.[2]

The last person executed in Puerto Rico was Pascual Ramos, hanged for murder in 1927. Two years later, in 1929, the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico abolished the death penalty.[3][4] The Puerto Rico's constitution expressly forbids capital punishment, stating "The death penalty shall not exist".[5]

Despite these provisions, the death penalty can still be applied in Puerto Rico under the federal government, which is a subject of considerable controversy in the territory.[6]

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